Title: Shoulder the Sky
Author: Anne Perry
Genre: Historical fiction, mystery
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Michael Page
First line: It was shortly after three in the afternoon.
Spoiler alert: This review will not contain spoilers for Shoulder the Sky, but will give away plot points to the first book in the series, No Graves As Yet.
Joseph Reavley is still dealing with the effects of his parents’ murder at the hands of his star pupil at Cambridge. He has left the university and enlisted in the British Army as a chaplain. While trying to cope with the horrors of life in the trenches and the moral ambiguities of war, Joseph patches up wounds, carries the wounded and dying off the battlefield, and attempts to counsel and comfort his men. His brother, Matthew, continues to use his position with the Secret Intelligence Service to search for The Peacemaker, the man who was ultimately responsible for the murder of their parents, and who continues to work to bring about England’s surrender to Germany. Judith, the youngest of the Reavley siblings, is working as a volunteer driver and is struggling with her attraction to the married general she is working for. And in the midst of all the terror and intrigue, Joseph is faced with another murder to solve – only this time the suspect list includes almost everyone who met the victim.
While I thoroughly enjoyed No Graves As Yet, in Shoulder the Sky, Anne Perry has elevated the series to a higher level. Yes, there is a murder mystery, but this novel is so much more than that. Joseph Reavley is a flawed, likable character. He is a chaplain who struggles with his faith, with how to reconcile a loving God with the horrors he sees around him every day. He believes in a moral code, and sometimes that causes him to be judgmental and black and white in a world full of gray areas.
The first book had sections from Joseph and Matthew’s points of view; this book adds Judith as a major character, an addition I appreciated. Her relationship with General Cullingford is one that fills a need in both of them, and yet he has a wife waiting at home. Joseph’s reaction to Judith’s attraction to the General causes a rift between the brother and sister at a time when they need each other most.
Joseph solves the small mystery within this book, but the over-arching mystery of the identity of The Peacemaker remains, which will – I presume – continue to give the rest of the series focus and continuity. I am looking forward to listening to the next book very soon.